This past winter my oldest son Ryan was invited to play in the Goodwill Series in Australia. It was an exciting opportunity to play baseball in a foreign country. It also turned out to be great for our entire family as we were all able to go. Now you are probably asking what is the Goodwill series? Baseball in Australia?
It turns out, Australians have been playing baseball for nearly 100 years. It’s not as popular as Australian rules football (AFL), or Cricket, but there has definitely been baseball in Australia.
I first became aware of Aussies playing baseball when a left handed hurler for the Arizona State Sun Devil’s – Josh Spence – was introduced as a product from down under. The crafty lefty was super effective and part of the pitching staff that led the Devil’s to a Super Regional championship.
At the time I wondered how they had converted a cricket player to a baseball player. Turns out they didn’t. There has been baseball in Australia for a long time and Major League Baseball sends scouts there every year to look for talent.
I wrote extensively about our experience in Australia on my blog (http://scottnovis.com) however, I was able to ask the Bob Williams, the founder of the series a few questions:
How did it get started?
The Goodwill series was started by Bob Williams, a San Francisco real estate developer in 1983. He soon added the Area Code games in 1987. For 31 years the Goodwill series focused on 13–18 year olds. Bob wanted to create international baseball opportunities for American players. In addition, the State and National teams in Australia, China, Korea, and Japan were looking for qualified competition to prepare for their own national tournaments.
As part of trying to build baseball into an Olympic sport, USA Baseball granted Bob the first Japan event in 1983. With the help of Lefty Gomez he built the program into what it is today.
How many teams are there?
As it exists today there are between two and three teams. An 18U Yankees Scout team, and usually a 16U Reds team. In 2014 however, the Reds team will be 14U as the host countries have requested a younger group to compete with. This happens every four years.
What is the program?
Players travel to Australia over the Winter break, and play baseball in two cities, Adelaide and Perth. They stay with host families. They are coached by professional scouts who are affiliated with their associated major league baseball team.
What can you tell me about the host families?
Host families are typically baseball families with players on the local team. Players fill out a profile and they matched up with players usually of the same age.
Can families travel as well?
Absolutely. There is an allotment of tickets available for families, but they are responsible for their own room, board, and transportation. Players stay with the host families.
Experience with a pedigree
Over 400 former players have played in the Major Leagues.
Where do the players come from?
Players are recruited from all over the country, including Arizona, California, Florida, Texas, New Mexico and beyond.
How are players chosen?
Players are selected by pro scouts, former players, the Arizona Classic baseball tournament, and their own SSK events.
Players may be extended an invite directly, via email, or they can go to the website and complete a profile.
How much does it cost?
The cost for a player to go is around $4,000. This includes airfare and lodging with a host family as well as transportation in country.
Are there scholarships?
Goodwill series provides a sponsor letter which players may use to try and raise funds from 3rd parties.
Where can I find more information?
Check out http://goodwillseries.org.
To fill out a player profile go to: Good Will Series Player Profile